- Special Sections
- Public Notices
The final home game of the basketball season is always special.
Last Friday, I happened to be in the stands as North Hardin closed out its 2012-13 home schedule. Because it was Senior Night, special ceremonies were held to honor 12th-graders on the home team.
By now, you also may have heard that Coach Ron Bevars also was honored. That night’s win over Marion County was Bevars’ 800th career victory, all at North Hardin. Family and friends arranged some commemorative gifts and conducted a special recognition ceremony as well.
But it also was special for another reason. North Hardin’s biggest supporter got a moment in the spotlight.
Malachi Mullins began volunteering as a student manager for the football team as a freshman and carried those duties four years for the boys’ basketball team. He never misses a practice. Often while the team is running drills, he shoots baskets at a side goal.
The son of Charles and Latrisha Luster, Mullins always has been interested in sports, his mother said. Like most 19-year-olds, he enjoys video games and typically it’s a basketball or football theme.
Mullins’ dream is to become a sports broadcaster. He already is known at North Hardin for his skills as a public address announcer, which would sound familiar in any NBA arena. He’s also sang the National Anthem at games and been known to pump up the teams or even the high school band with an animated dance routine.
“Oh, my, he loves North Hardin,” Coach Bevars said.
Asked about his Trojan pride, Mullins simply said, “Yeah, that’s me. School spirit.”
Mullins, who briefly tried out for the basketball team before returning to his support role, dressed out for the Feb. 8 game. Coach Bevars decided to fulfill Mullins’ dream and put him in uniform.
After the starting lineup was announced, the entire team formed a circle around Malachi and cheered and chanted as he danced.
When the see-saw scoring gave way to a one-sided North Hardin advantage in the fourth, the crowd began to chant Malachi’s name. Cheers exploded from every corner of the gym when Mullins left the bench to check into the lineup.
“When I got in the game, they got all crazy and hyped up,” Mullins said.
His mother had a different reaction.
“My heart just melted. I cried. I was so excited,” Mrs. Luster said. “It meant a whole lot to me and my whole family.”
The cheers did not subside until Malachi got an open shot. The room fell silent until the ball clanged off the rim. North got the rebound and the ball immediately was tossed back to Malachi.
This time he scored. And a standing ovation erupted.
“Malachi is truly loved,” his mother said. “And he loves everybody at North Hardin.”
It was a special night for a special kid, who just happens to have special needs.
Malachi Mullins has been diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a cognitive disorder akin to autism. Primary characteristics include repetitive behaviors, language difficulties and trouble with social interaction.
Despite these extra challenges, Malachi Mullins is part of a supportive team, handles public speaking and singing duties and demonstrates extraordinary school spirit.
Special is truly the most appropriate word to describe him.
Ben Sheroan, also a former basketball student manager at North Hardin, is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or email@example.com.